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Finally a (small) garden
We have an exciting update for you guys. We’re growing a garden!
I know many of the personal finance bloggers like Mr. Tako and Tawcan have a bountiful garden that not only helps them cut costs in grocery expenses but also keeps them healthy.
Having a lustrous backyard full of edible plants and fruit is in fact one of my 12 frugal fantasies.
My ideal garden is one that can take care of itself while providing us with an abundant supply of green veggies, herbs, and juicy delicious fruit.
In fact, I experimented with growing sweet potatoes, avocados, and some other veggies. But it never worked out.
The reason is simple: I’m just too lazy and impatient to go through the whole process of germinating, watering, awaiting, and such.
I just threw a couple of potatoes and seeds in the backyard after mowing the lawn, hoping that they would grow on their own.
Of course, they never did.
They needed care and attention, which I was too lazy to give them.
The end result is that we had nothing edible in the backyard and kept buying veggies from the grocery store.
Things changed about a year ago when my mother-in-law (MIL) brought Baby F1 back to us from China.
We sent our son to daycare full-time two weeks after he returned to DC so that he could interact with other kids and learn the new language instead of staying at home with his grandma and being exposed only to Chinese the whole day.
My MIL helped us cook dinner on weekdays. Other than that, she had little to do except for going for a long walk and watching TV. It was summer, so she decided to clean up our small backyard and grew some garlic, green onions, and other plants.
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The abandoned backyard
After she left for China, the backyard was abandoned for about two months in June and July. During that time, the garlic plants disappeared and gave way to a series of weeds and wild plants.
The only plant that kept growing was the green onions which we used extensively almost every day in our cooking. We didn’t even bother to water them and just waited for the rain to do the job, just like what it does to our car: free car wash.
My MIL’s green onions among all the weeds and wild plants.
At one point, however, the weeds overgrew and made our backyard look hideous. I was 7 months pregnant with our second baby, so Mr. FAF took the matter in his own hands and decided to grow a garden.
I was really surprised when I heard that. Mr. FAF had never mentioned to me that he had any slight interest in gardening.
He even said a couple of times that he was too busy and didn’t have time for that. If anything, gardening would have to wait until his retirement. Below are the steps he took to execute his gardening plan:
— Spent about $50 on gardening tools
— Pulled out all the weeds and wild plants in our backyard
— Got some garlic plants with roots from the grocery store; cut the leaves; and planted the roots
— Watered the plants every day
— Got more seeds for chives, bokchoy, and other veggies (for less than $10 in total) and planted them in the backyard.
Over the next week, the garlic plants grew about 4 inches, which made him super excited. Every day, Mr. FAF checks the weather in the morning to see if it will rain that day.
Mr. FAF’s garlic plants. He likes eating the garlic leaves. He said they are fragrant and delicious.
When he gets home from work, the first thing he does is look out the window that faces the backyard to see if his plants are growing. The garlic plants are growing fast while we see no sign of the other plants.
A bigger plan
Then one day, Mr. FAF happily announced to me that if he wanted to become a professional gardener, and that if his current project goes well, we will buy a big lot of land in the Midwest or somewhere cheaper than DC to do farming in the future.
Mr. FAF and I both grew up in overcrowded cities in Asia (Shanghai for him and Hanoi for me). I’ve never pictured myself growing veggies or raising livestock.
I prefer to live in a metropolitan area where everything is easily accessible. I think Mr. FAF feels the same way. The one and only reason why I have any interest in gardening is to save money.
To be more specific, I want someone else to do the gardening so that I can just harvest the products and cut our grocery expenses.
We are not ready to move to a rural area anytime soon. But Mr. FAF’s comment has made me think about a future retirement when both of us have a good nest egg and enough cash to live on while pursuing a more relaxing lifestyle.
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When we were in Raleigh, we visited the History Museum where they showed how people in North Carolina lived in the past: farming, raising livestock, picking fresh eggs, and getting fresh cow milk in the morning.
I thought about whether we would be fit for that lifestyle in the future.
Most importantly, will we even have enough energy and strength to take care of vegetables and our livestock after raising our kids and working full-time all those years?
I also thought about Mrs. and Mr. Frugalwoods‘s life in their Vermont homestead. I follow their blog closely and relish their honest description of the rural life.
It seems easy to look at beautiful pictures of a vast area of land with green trees and beautiful lakes and romanticize the rural life. In fact, however, it involves a lot of labor such as chopping wood, plowing snow, driving for hours to get to Costco and back, and plowing soil to grow fruit and trees.
I honestly don’t know if I’d be up for all those tasks. My ideal retirement right now is just to travel the world and eat delicious food.
But I also know from experience that traveling nonstop is not really my thing. I want stability and a sense of belonging.
I’ve been traveling back and forth from the US to a couple of countries in Asia over the past13 years, and it really tired me out with the long flights and the debilitating jetlag.
That’s not to mention all the stress with missing items and the paperwork. Also, when I get older, I’m not sure if my metabolism and Irritable Bowel Syndrome can handle all of those foods I want to eat every day.
Would I prefer a condo or a small house somewhere in the city where I can just go to free events, pick up some new hobbies like ballroom dance, and go on a couple of trips here and there every year instead of toiling in the sun on a homestead?
I’m not so sure at this point. It’s exciting to have plans and to map out what we’d like to do with each of those plans.
Mr. FAF and I indeed have talked about downsizing to a one- or two-bedroom condo when we retire in the future and just travel for months at a time.
However, we now have a homestead plan where we will be raising our own chickens, fruit, and vegetables, which also makes me really excited.
I particularly like the sound of having fresh eggs every day. Who wouldn’t like that? Mr. FAF eats an apple every morning to help with his digestive system.
How nice it’d be to have a couple of apple trees in our backyard.
We can just go outside of our home, pluck a couple apples from the source, and relish them right then and there.
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I know Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods stayed at a couple of AirBnB homesteads to get a feel for the area where they wanted to buy a house.
We might also stay at a place like that in future to know what it’s like living on a farm. We might or might not like it. But I think it’s the beauty of life. We keep experimenting until we know for sure which plan we want to stick with.
We can even have a house in the city and a homestead in a rural area and have the best of both worlds. But before we get there, we just need to get our finances in order.
Dreams are nothing without planning and action. We don’t have to decide where and how we would like to live when we retire. But what we can do now is make sure we have enough money to make whatever dream we have come true in the future.
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7 thoughts on “Why We Are Thinking About Retiring On A Homestead”
Oh yeah, a homestead is my #1 frugal fantasy. Without the mental strain of “work”, the physical strain of farming would be welcome. I already adore my tiny garden, but don’t have time or energy to expand as I’d like. I dream of rolling hills covered in orchards, chickens and goats happily roaming, and rows of bursting green edibles right outside my kitchen door.
I can do like a 2nd grader level of gardening but it’s no fantasy. I think I’m a city urban girl through and through although it’s totally common sense to grow your own easy to raise vegetables. I don’t have to stop by the store for chives or spring onions or basil anymore knowing it’s covered! 🙂 nice feeling. I get totally jelly during harvesting because it’s like a lot of free stuff from the earth but there’s a crapppp ton of work involved too!
I think a homestead would be lovely. Southern Illinois, Southern Indiana and Southern Missouri have cheap land that would work for homesteading. We plan to look for land out West for a homestead because I love the mountains.
One thing to think about with livestock, travel takes a lot more planning and can be expensive. You have to find someone who can care for them while you’re gone. My Great Grandparents never took a vacation together in their lives because they couldn’t leave their animals and farm unattended.
A good compromise if you want to homestead and have city activities would be to live near a city. I know near St. Louis there was lots of farmland within a 30-minute drive of downtown on the Illinois side of the river.
There are options for urban homesteading too which you might want to look into. You live in a city but on a “big” lot (1/3-1/2 acre) and you can have a large garden, fruit trees, chickens, maybe goats and rabbits. It depends on the city but all of those are allowed where I live. We have a vacant lot next to our house (the house burned down 20 years ago) and I tried a garden there one year but was really not good about watering it, tending it while working. We ended up with the best option during the last 8 or 9 years though. A older woman that lives nearby in an apartment asked to use our land to garden and just needed access to water from our house. She even insists on paying us $100 for water each year. She is able to grow a LOT of produce every year but is also out there almost every day for hours. She only uses small hand tools and brings in food scraps to bury and enrich the soil. We also get bags of free food and are constantly encouraged to pick more. Her english is very limited so we don’t talk much but try. This year she gave us bitter melon and I asked her how she cooks it and she went and picked some tomatoes to go with it. I know someday I will have to maintain the land myself and we might also use the lot to build another house but perhaps I might find someone else that wants a garden and wants to to share. We also have a number of fruit trees and berry bushes that I’m much better at dealing with (they don’t have to be watered everyday to survive) and I imagine that I’d like to add more fruit plants, unusual ones, and possibly sell the excess to our neighborhood restaurants.
Growing up my grand father had a farm that sustained their family of five. About 8 -10 acres , cows, pigs,chickens, and garden. The problem of course is you can never go on vacation anywhere and feeding of animals started at 5am. I still live rurally today but have no desire to have a homestead.
I love my chooks! T want s a pig and goat haha. We spent a few weeks volunteering
On a little farm and I think we wouldn’t want that much land, but maybe a tiny lifestyle block…
I’m with Mr. FAF- spring garlic is my absolute favorite (which is probably why we ended up with multiple garden beds filled with garlic this year…) I would encourage you to look into perennial plants. They are seriously a low time commitment with a huge return once they get established.